UPDATE: Cust told Slusser on Sunday that he thinks the A’s made a bad move by giving up on him. It sure sounds like he would rather move on to another club:
“I think it’s messed up,” Cust said. “They’re going to go on 50 at-bats
after three years of what I’ve done here? It’s ridiculous. A lot of
other guys have had bad springs. This is a joke. … The fact is, this team has no power and they’ve just released a guy
who (averaged 28 homers) the last three years. That’s amazing.”
Cust went 11-for-51 this spring (.216) with one home run and three RBI.
8:20pm: Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle has been all over the A’s news beat this afternoon and passes along this interesting tweet:
Cust to be designated. That’s what I’m hearing but
it’s not official by any means.
Slusser, of course, is talking about Jack Cust, the man who hit .240/.356/.417 last season with 25 home runs and 70 RBI and was re-signed to a $2.65 million contract this winter. He lacks versatility and all, but it sure seems like the guy would be useful as a DH or late-innings pinch-hitter for Oakland this season. If he is cast off, you can bet that a few teams will be phoning Athletics general manager Billy Beane.
On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”
Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”
Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.
The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.
When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.